Pensioners are urged to be vigilant after a spate of courier frauds in the east and south of the UK, including one case where a victim lost £5.3 million.

Reports to Action Fraud, the national fraud and cybercrime reporting service, have shown that members of the public have been contacted by criminals purporting to be either from the police or from their bank, claiming that the victim’s account has been taken over by fraudsters.

The victim has then been coerced to transfer money and/or buy gold bullion and jewellery to aid an investigation, often with the criminal posing as a courier to collect these valuable items from the victim’s address. This type of crime is known as courier fraud. In some cases, criminals have even visited the victim’s home, posing as police officers to collect money, jewellery and bank cards.

City of London Police, the national lead force for fraud, has seen one report from a victim in Essex who lost £5.3 million and another victim in Cambridgeshire lost over £1.9 million.

Detective Sergeant Victoria O’Keefe, from the Lead Force Operations Room at the City of London Police, said:

“The victims of this crime are losing significant amounts of money and on some occasions, it amounts to their life savings.

“In many of the recent reported cases, the victims are being encouraged to purchase gold bullion, but may not ask to look at it, have no interest in the item or are not able to give a satisfactory reason for the purchase. They may also appear slightly evasive, nervous and will want to buy the item and leave as soon as possible.

“If you are a jeweller or gold dealer, we urge you to look out for the signs of courier fraud. The victims in these crimes are often told to give cover stories on why they are purchasing the item, and they believe what they are doing is legitimate. Another tell-tale sign is that the victim may be on the phone to someone whilst they make the purchase.

“If any members of the public hear of any friends and family being contacted out of the blue by the police or their bank to make purchases on their behalf, call the police and report it immediately.”

In the last three months, more than £19.6 million has been lost to courier fraud, with high value gold bullion cases reported in Wiltshire, Thames Valley, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. In all cases reported that featured gold bullion being purchased, the victims are between 75 and 91 years of age.

A way to block nuisance phone calls is to install a device called a call blocker unit. Call blockers filter unwanted scam and nuisance calls and stop them from getting through to the person’s landline. The devices allow calls from a trusted caller list set by the user for friends, family members, doctors and any other trusted contacts. Should you want to know more about call blockers, visit City of London Police previously worked with Truecall as part of an initiative in 2021 to install call blockers in the homes of residents living in the city.

Any jewellers or gold dealers who believe a customer may be the victim of a fraud which is in progress should call the police immediately on 999.

Reports of fraud should also be made to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040. In Scotland, reports of fraud can be made to Police Scotland on 101.

Courier fraud occurs when people are duped into handing over money or valuables to criminals posing as couriers. Using a variety of different tactics, usually involving the impersonation of police officers and bank staff, criminals will call the victim and convince them into withdrawing a sum of money and handing it over to a courier who is sent to their home. The victim may also be convinced into handing over their bank cards, PINs, as well as high value items such as jewellery, watches and gold (coins or bullion). Victims are also coerced into going out and buying items such as gold and jewellery in legitimate retailers on behalf of criminals.

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